Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin: Five Films (Blu-ray)

February 23, 2018 9 Min Read

Review by: Jake Keet

Plot: What’s it about?

Jean Luc-Godard is unquestionably a director that has influenced numerous stylistic choices in modern cinema. Watching a great Godard film is pure joy (Breathless, Contempt, Band of Outsiders, Pierrot Le Fou.) He also has the capability of being insufferable in some of his stylistic choices. That has not kept me from continuing to watch his films with a certain admiration. I definitely do not like every single film he has made, but I love at least five of his films off of the top of my head. At the end of the day, whether his films are good or bad is totally in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, when Arrow released five experimental films that Godard had done with a precocious film critic name Jean-Pierre Morin, I was excited and worried. I was excited that Arrow was releasing this set and making these films available in the best format possible, and worried that I might find these films incredibly pretentious. I promise that each film will receive a fair and honest review. Let’s get started!

Disc One:

Un film comme les autres

Revolutionary students discuss workers at a factory sit in a field and discuss the work the unions and strikes have done to try to increase wages at a plant in Flin. Footage is intercut that shows little snippets of things discussed and other noteworthy news items. While there is some neat footage and a little bit of insight into the raw feeling in France at that time, this is one of the least engaging films I have ever seen. I was bored to death. There are crazy long periods where the camera never moves and most of the time you can never see who is talking. This whole thing felt like an exercise in annoying the audience.

British Sounds (See You At Mao)

A long panning shot of a car factory assembling cars while a narrator talks about the Bourgeoisie, the proletariat class, labor, communism, and exploitation. This is actually pretty cool as an art film even if it is pretentious as anything. Then that shot ends and it cuts to a shot of two rooms and a hallway where a naked woman walks between the two rooms while the narrators talk about exploitation. Then there is a very long shot of a woman’s exposed pubic area. After that is a long tirade about hippies read by some sort of racist demagogue from London. Then we are treated to musicians trying to learn songs off of the Beatles’ White Album while they smoke cigarettes.

Disc Two:

Le vent d’est (Wind from the East)

While this film has an interesting conversation regarding Lenin, Sergei Eisenstein, and Goebbles, it is another overblown, pretentious, bore of a film. It talks about revolutionary film, union strikes, and other confusing non-related items while on screen people lay around, paint their faces, and occasionally dress in costumes in a forest. A bunch of other weird things occur onscreen but nothing happens that can kill the boredom within the viewer. Parts of the film where they discuss cinema may hold some sway with some viewers, but those moments are around the halfway mark and I imagine most people will have turned it off by then.

Lotte in Italia (Struggle in Italy)

Like the other films it begins with affirming a belief in Marxist ideologies and a pro Palestine stance. Once again, there is not much happening here of interest.

Disc Three:

Vladimir et Rosa

This is the best of the five films. Godard and Morin focus on the Chicago Eight trial but use it as a way to reflect on French society. Godard plays Lenin and Godin as Karl Rosa and they discuss revolutionary cinema. Like the other films, it is just not very good. At least this one has some basis in an incident that people can decipher.

Overall, this is Godard at his most bloated and pretentious. These films are just terrible. There is no way around it. I was so bored I wanted to scream repeatedly at these films. Godard is capable of great films (Breathless, Contempt, Pierrot Le Fou, many more) but these films represent an artist that has truly read his own press clippings and dug his head firmly up his own ass. To say that I hated these would be an understatement. I truly regret wasting my time.

Video: How’s it look?

Arrow Video have provided an excellent 2K transfer of the film’s using an MPEG-4 AVC codec from the original camera negatives. The transfer is another strong effort by Arrow Video but the films are nit visually going to blow anybody away. These films were shot cheaply on 16mm cameras and developed inexpensively and edited in camera in some cases. This is miles away from the beauty that he exerted in some of his early films. Overall, expect the image to look somewhat soft and for not much to be happening onscreen.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Arrow Video has provided the original French LPCM mono tracks. There is not much to live about these tracks. As cheap as the film quality was, the recording quality is a little worse. This is lowbrow filmmaking so there is distortion occasionally and audio that sounds like it was recorded haphazardly. This is not Arrow’s fault but the fault of the filmmaker.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • A Conversation with JLG – this archival Interview was recorded in 2010with the iconic director. This is a great piece although I will say that I prefer Godard’s discussions when he was a younger man. For sheer length, this feature is commendable. It is rare that a director will give this much of his time in front of a camera and this feature is well-done.
  • Michael Witt on Godard, Gorin, and the Dziga Vertov Group – leave it to Arrow Films to have a truly engaging feature length documentary about this period in Godard’s career where he began with some of his most interesting work and ended with some of his worst work. This feature is very well done and fans will love this.
  • Schick After-Shave Ad – a strange ad that once again iterates the pro-Palestine stance of Godard at the time.

The Bottom Line

This is a case where the supplements are much better than the films. To say I hated these movies would be an understatement. I truly found them to be some of the least rewarding viewing experiences imaginable. The silver lining is that Arrow have provided a great in-depth interview with Godard and a fascinating discussion of Godard with Michael Witt. I would not recommend this set based on the merits of the films, but the three and a half hours of supplements are fantastic. This comes down to a case of completists May find something here while the rest of us will want our time back. Given the work that Arrow did for this release I will give a full recommendation for avid Godard collectors, but others should avoid this set. I had high hopes for this release and the films themselves are the biggest detractor.

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